The Power of Iconic Products

One of the main aspects that attracted me to Stern’s Fashion and Luxury MBA was the emphasis placed on experiential learning. As part of our Summer NYC Immersion series, we’ve had opportunities to hear directly from industry experts on their career journeys and real-world business insights.

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting Donald Kohler, CEO Americas & Chief Global Retail Officer at Salvatore Ferragamo, and Nicolas Topiol, CEO of Christian Lacroix. Something I learned from both these sessions was the importance for luxury fashion brands to have icons and emblems that consumers can immediately associate with their brand.

For Ferragamo, one of their most iconic products is the Vara shoe, which was originally designed by Salvatore Ferragamo’s daughter Fiamma back in 1978.  To this day, it’s a classic style and has been worn by modern day fashion influencers like Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung. The shoe’s grosgrain bow is so iconic that is has also been applied to other product categories, like their Signora perfume.

Mr. Kohler spoke about how constant reinvention of iconic styles like the Vara shoe will always be an integral part of the Ferragamo assortment, however there is also a rich brand archive that designers can dip into and create new styles from. It’s important for luxury brands to strike a balance between heritage and relevance – i.e. using emblems and motifs from a brand’s history in a modern way. An example of this would be Gucci’s use of bees and other nature symbols, which were always part of the house codes but have been reinvented by Alessandro Michele in a very cool and relevant way.

Icons have a very different story in the case of Christian Lacroix. While Mr Lacroix himself became globally renowned as a master couturier, his brand did not have a logo, specific stylized attributes (e.g. Chanel’s pearls or camellia) or distinctive pattern (e.g. Gucci’s monochrome print). Mr Topial acknowledged that this was necessary for a luxury brand, especially when it comes to expanding into new product categories (e.g. homeware, stationary, etc). Hence the brand developed its butterfly logo and its signature “Paseo” motif.

In an age where customers are exposed to multiple brands on multiple touch points, having iconic logos, emblems and products are important in making a brand stand out and remain front of mind.